The Uber-Successful Life Of Cary Grant

Considered to be one of classic Hollywood’s great leading men, Cary Grant starred in over 70 films throughout his career. Although he acted in a variety of genres over the years, he is known for his mostly for his suave demeanor, and for never playing a role that might have harmed his image. Over his life, he accumulated vast wealth from being the first actor to reject the studio system and negotiate deals, having his salary based on his film’s success at the box office. Take a look to see Grant’s humble beginnings, rise to stardom, and the mark he left on Hollywood.

His Name Isn’t Cary Grant

Grant in a striped shirt
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Although we know him as Cary Grant, he was born Alec Archibald Leach in Bristol, England, in 1904. Upon making his way to Hollywood in 1931, executives at Paramount didn’t think that “Archie Leach” was a good enough name for a leading man.

So, when it came time to give himself a new name, with the help of friends Gay Wray and John Monk Saunders, they landed on “Cary Lockwood.” While the executives liked the name Cary, they were still unsure about Lockwood and came up with Grant when reading down a list of last names. The actor legally changed his name in 1941.

Archie Leach Was Quite The Performer Before Becoming A Hollywood Star

Grant dancing
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images
John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images

Long before arriving in Hollywood in the early 1930s, and before becoming Cary Grant, the soon-to-be-actor left home at the age of 13 to join up with the Bob Pender Troupe. This was a group of boy comedians, in which Grant specialized in acrobatics, tumbling, and vaudeville.

In 1920 Bob Pender brought his troupe to the US, where they toured for two years before he decided not to return to England. For the next several years, he demonstrated his unique skills until meeting producer Arthur Hammerstein while performing on Broadway in 1927, introducing him to film.

He Was Involved In A Lawsuit With Chevy Chase

Grant drinking coffee
Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images
Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images

When Chevy Chase first started to make a name for himself in Hollywood, it wasn’t uncommon for him to be compared to a younger Cary Grant. Regarding this comparison, in a 1980 interview, Chase commented, “He was brilliant. What a gal!”

Grant was infuriated by this comment, as rumors had already been circulating that he was bisexual. The next day, Grant sued Chase for $10 million, although the two eventually settled out of court. Grant was 76 at the time and noted that “True or untrue, I am old enough not to play.”

He Had A Deep Family Secret

GettyImages-3229616
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When a young Grant was just nine years old, his father had his mother committed to a mental institution. It was there that Grant’s father claimed that she had died not long after being admitted.

However, it wasn’t until Grant was 31 years old that he learned the truth that his mother was still alive. His father had suffered from alcoholism throughout his life and admitted to the secret to Grant while on his deathbed.

One Version Of Superman Was Based On Him

Grant and Hepburn
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

In an interview, Christopher Reeves, who played Superman, went on to reveal that he based Superman’s alter-ego of Clark Kent in the 1978 Superman movie on Grant’s character in the 1938 comedy Bringing Up the Baby.

In the film, Grant plays a paleontologist alongside Katherine Hepburn’s character, who, together, raise a leopard named Baby. Christopher Reeves’ inspiration for Clark Kent through Grant was later adopted by several other Superman actors.

His Image Was Never Tarnished

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John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Featured in more than 70 starring roles throughout his career, he was never allowed to play the villain. This was to ensure that his nice-guy image was upheld, and to keep him as profitable of an actor as possible.

At one point, Alfred Hitchcock was forced to change the ending of his 1941 film Superstition, which eventually revealed Grant’s character to be the killer. However, this went against Grant’s hero image and he was begrudgingly made to rewrite the end to portray grant’s character in a more positive light.

His First Crack At Retirement Didn’t Exactly Stick

Grant In To Catch A Thief
Paramount/Getty Images
Paramount/Getty Images

Grant retired early, at first, in 1952 at the age of 48. He made the decision to leave the film industry after figuring that upcoming stars such as Marlon Brando would run him out of business, so he thought he would just quit while he was ahead.

Although he didn’t work for three years, Alfred Hitchcock eventually convinced him to star in his film To Catch a Thief alongside Grace Kelly. While Grant made $700,000 from the film, Hitchcock made a mere $50,000.

He Enjoyed Altering His Mind

Grant playing the harp
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Although Grant prided himself in always doing things in moderation, he particularly enjoyed altering his mind with illegal substances. While at the top of his career, he was introduced to one psychoactive substance by his third wife and later claimed that the compound saved him.

He once commented that “During my… sessions, I would learn a great deal, and the result was a rebirth. I finally got where I wanted to go.” It is estimated he ingested the narcotic over 100 times between 1958 and 1961, even contacting Good Housekeeping to spread the word about his experiences.

He Was Almost James Bond

Grant in a suit
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

The author of the James Bond series, Ian Fleming, has gone on record stating that he partially based Bond’s cool and calm demeanor with Grant’s impressive Hollywood image.

He was so much like a real James Bond that he was offered the first film in the series, Dr. No. However, at 58 years old, Grant figured that he was too old for the role. Furthermore, the producers needed an actor that would commit to more than just one film. This was a lucky break for the future Bond actor Sean Connery.

He Was Frugal With His Money

Promotion shot of grant
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

Although Grant is well known for his style, suave, and wit, the actor was also known for being rather cheap. He was the first actor to break out of the studio system and negotiate a percentage of his film’s box office takes, which made him incredibly wealthy. However, he wasn’t known to waste his money.

Rumors eventually began to circulate that he was so cheap with his money that he was known to take the buttons off of his shirts before disposing of them. It was also said that he kept a string in his pocket, as his father was a tailor, and didn’t want to forget his humble beginnings.

He Was In A Major Car Crash

Grant on a balcony
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Just days after his divorce to Dyan Cannon, Grant was in a life-threatening accident. At the age of 64, while riding in a limousine to JFK airport along with 23-year-old Baroness Gratia von Furstenberg, the two were struck by a truck while driving on the Long Island Expressway.

Although they both thankfully survived, the two spent days in the hospital recovering from their injuries. On top of that, they were awarded $70,000 in a settlement with the truck’s owner.

He Was Turned Down By Sophia Loren

Sophia and Grant
Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images
Ernst Haas/Ernst Haas/Getty Images

Over the course of his life, Grant would be married five times, with four of them ending in divorce. Nevertheless, while filming The Pride and the Passion, he became involved in an affair with the much younger Sophia Loren.

At the time, he was married and three decades Loren’s senior. However, when Grant proposed, Loren turned him down. The next year, the two would star next to each other once again in Houseboat, but after their affair ended, the production of the film proved to be difficult.

He Had A Bank Vault In His Home

Grant leaning on railing
Archive Photos/Getty Images
Archive Photos/Getty Images

After watching all of his childhood memories destroyed in the bombing of the United Kingdom in World War II, Grant vowed to never let any of his own family’s precious belongings become lost.

His daughter once described a “bank-quality vault” that Grant had installed in their home. This is where he kept the family’s photos, letters, and home movies. Surely, considering how wealthy he was, he most likely also kept some of his more expensive purchases.

He Had No Intention Of Coming Out Of Retirement A Second Time

Cary Grant in a sweater and red shirt
Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images
Maureen Donaldson/Getty Images

Cary Grant retired from the silver screen in 1962 after his daughter Jennifer Grant was born, intending to be a present father. After retiring, he had no intention of making a career comeback. However, he was offered several roles, claiming that “I could have gone on acting playing a grandfather or a bum, but I discovered more important things in life.”

In his final years, however, he embarked on a one-man show titled “A Conversation with Cary Grant,” in which he would show clips from his films and answer the audience’s questions. On November 29,1986, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 82.

He Had A Number Of Close Male Friends

Grant and Randolph Scott
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Throughout his life, Grant’s preferences were consistently questioned, regardless that he married five times and had numerous affairs with women. Before he became a Hollywood icon, he lived with costume designer Orry-Kerry on and off for nine years, and later with his close friend Randolph Scott for 12.

Furthermore, a manuscript by Orry-Kelly was discovered, which suggested that the two had been lovers, and after Grant’s popularity began to grow, he began to keep his personal life more of a secret. In a book about her father. Grant’s daughter commented that “Dad somewhat enjoyed being called gay. He said it made women want to prove the assertion wrong.

He Never Received Any Major Awards

Cary Grant in London
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Although he was one of the most successful actors at the box office ever, surprisingly, Grant never earned any major awards for his work. He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Penny Serenade and None But the Lonely Heart, and a whopping five times for the Golden Globe for Best Actor.

Yet, he never had any of these awards placed in his hands. In 1970, he received an honorary Oscar for his “unique mastery of the art of screen acting with the respect and affection of his colleagues.”

He Was One Of The Few Actors Alfred Hitchcock Liked

Grant and Hitchcock
MGM Studios/Archive Photos/Getty Images
MGM Studios/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Despite Alfred Hitchcock insisting that films be made in his vision, there were few actors that he got along with. He was notorious for having less-than-friendly relationships with most of those who starred in his films.

Cary Grant ended up starring in four of Hitchcock’s films including Suspicion, Notorious, To Catch a Thief, and North by Northwest. Hitchcock went so far one time as to state that Grant was “the only actor I ever loved in my whole life.”

He Made Large Contributions To The War Effort

Grant in North by Northwest
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

During the 1940s, Grant became heavily involved with the war effort. At the time, many major Hollywood stars put aside their acting careers to serve their country. Although he was unable to join up with the armed forces and physically fight, he certainly did contribute a lot of money.

His first contribution was his $137,000 salary from The Philadelphia Story to the British Relief Fund. Later he donated $100,000 from his salary from Old Lance to the U.S. War Relief Fund.

He Never Said “Judy, Judy, Judy”

Picture of Grant
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

A long time phrase that has been closely associated with Cary Grant is “Judy, Judy, Judy.” Yet, as it turns out, Grant never said these famous words.

In fact, Grant once said that this saying is actually the work of impersonator Larry Storch, who played Corporal Randolph Agarn on F Troop. Supposedly, Storch was impersonating Grant in a nightclub when he saw Judy Garland enter the room, leading him to welcome her by saying, “Judy, Judy, Judy.”

He Was Good Friends With Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes and Grant on a plane
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Cary Grant was close friends with billionaire, pilot, and director, Howard Hughes, and even married his fourth wife, Ryan Cannon, at Hughes’ Desert Inn in Las Vegas. His friendship with Hughes in the 1930s saw Grant being invited into many close-knit Hollywood circles and parties.

However, their friendship also greatly benefited Grant’s wealth, leading Grant to become interested in business, so that by 1939, he was “already an astute operator with various commercial interests.”